Patriotic Chinese blockbuster Wolf Warrior 2 packs a Hollywood-style punch at the box office

Cinema-goers starved of foreign films over summer are flocking to see the sequel rather than PLA propaganda movie released on the same day

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 August, 2017, 7:39pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 August, 2017, 1:07am

A patriotic Chinese film released ahead of its army’s 90th anniversary has taken the global box office by storm, raking in US$126 million last weekend on the mainland alone.

That compared to the No 2 film Dunkirk, which took US$73 million worldwide, according to US magazine Variety.

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In Wolf Warrior 2, Wu Jing – a martial artist who starred in, directed and co-wrote the film – plays a former special forces operative from China battling American mercenaries to rescue Chinese caught up in an African revolution.

But with Hollywood directors Joe and Anthony Russo consulting on the film and foreign actors – including American Frank Grillo as the villain and Hong Kong-American Celina Jade as the female lead – it’s proving a hit with local audiences.

For cinema-goers on the Chinese mainland over summer, local blockbusters are plentiful but there are very few Hollywood films to watch as the government limits the number of foreign moves that can be shown. Year-round, Beijing caps at 34 the number of foreign films that can be released in China.

The influence of the Russo brothers, who co-directed the Captain America films, can be seen most clearly in the fight sequences.

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The film – whose Hollywood style is a departure from traditional patriotic movies – was released on the same day as The Founding of an Army, which tells the story of the early days of the People’s Liberation Army. With far more screening times, the propaganda film took in US$30.5 million at the box office from July 27 to July 30 – compared with US$146 ­million for Wolf Warrior 2.

State mouthpiece People’s Daily emphasised the patriotic aspect of Wolf Warrior 2. “We are living in an insecure age, but we’re living in a safe country,” one audience member at a Chinese cinema was quoted as saying.

But the pro-China themes were lost on some. On Chinese film site Douban, one viewer said it was like watching a James Bond film. “The patriotic stuff did nothing for me. It’s worth the money though because it’s pretty similar in terms of viewing experience to a James Bond movie,” he wrote.

While it “could be regarded as Chinese nationalist propaganda”, another person wrote on IMDb, it was still worth watching because some of the scenes were based on true stories.

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Chinese film critic Roushu was impressed by the detail of some of the scenes but said its plot could have been better. “If the plot was as good as its action scenes, it would be a good movie rather than a good action movie,” he wrote in an article posted on WeChat on July 28.

It has received positive reviews on both Chinese and Western film rating sites – 7.4 out of 10 on IMDb, while 88 per cent of viewers have “liked” it on Rotten Tomatoes. On Douban, the film has been rated 7.5 out of 10.

The sequel has already beaten ticket sales of the first Wolf Warrior in 2015, which grossed US$89 million in China. It tells the story of a special forces officer fighting foreign mercenaries hired by a drug lord in Xinjiang.